The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) passed a bylaw in 2000 phasing out pesticide use on residential and Municipality lands. For at least ten years before that, pesticides were not used on Municipality lands.

High Profile Open Spaces

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) focuses their sustainable maintenance activities on heavily used public spaces and parks. In areas with grass, they do a suite of natural landscaping practices such as: high mowing heights, topdressing with compost, overseeding with hardy grass seed, and aerating. In really high profile areas such as the Public Gardens and the Downtown Grand Parade, they also test the soil and treat it accordingly.

The Halifax Public Gardens Oldest Victorian Garden in Canada

Low-Maintenance Open Spaces

On open space areas that are quick drive-by areas, such as boulevards, minimal maintenance is done: spring and fall clean-up, some fertilizing and they may mow more often in dandelion season.  Brian Phelan, the Supervisor of Parks and Open Spaces says “we tell people that once the dandelions’ flowering period is over, they are less noticeable.”

Sports Fields

Halifax received special recognition from Communities in Bloom in 2006 for “Exemplary Sports Fields.” Halifax maintains 120 soccer and rugby fields. Peter Verge, the Supervisor of Sports and Playgrounds, says that when he first got involved in 2002, only 20% of the fields were okay; now 70% of them are rated as good.

What did the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) do? They invested in utility tractors that could tow equipment capable of topdressing fields with compost, overseeding with hardy grass seed, and aerating. HRM also invested in staff training related to sustainable horticultural practices. Mowing heights are kept at 2 to 4 inches with 4 inches as the preference. A Sports Field Advisory Committee was formed with soccer players. They share their needs for the fields, agreeing to higher grass heights and restricting play in each field to 20 hours per week. Irrigation systems were installed in nine of the fields.

Topdressing a Sports Field with Compost

Peter Verge says that although their sports fields aren’t super yet, they used to have compacted clay, rocks and tufts of grass. In one year they restored a field that was barren to a lush field with no weeds. Verge says “healthy grass does out compete weeds. Keeping grass longer helps maintain moisture and withstand drought. The compost and aeration makes the turf soft and spongy.”

Peter Verge had a project to spray aerated compost tea on six fields in 2006. It showed promise and this year they’ll use it on their lawn bowling greens where the Provincial and National Championships will be held in the summer of 2007.


The compost used by the Halifax Regional Municipality comes from their municipal composting program. Residents put their organic waste out in the supplied green carts which are then collected and taken to a private company which makes it into compost. Peter Verge says that the compost is cooked and properly prepared:  “We tested it for pathogens and contaminants for two years before we started using it.”  The compost is mixed with sand to topdress the sports fields. Verge says they steadily increase the topdressing for five years on a field and then will phase it out over the next five years. This lessens the soil compaction and allows the grass roots to grow deeper. It also helps the soil retain water so it needs less watering.

Brian Phelan says “We’re proud of what we’ve done and support it 100 %. It’s a step in the right direction.” 

Helen Jones a past member of the Pesticide Bylaw Advisory Committee agrees:

Our municipality deserves a wheelbarrow load of credit for the excellent job they are doing and the community is solidly behind them. . . . [P]eople who are  exquisitely sensitive to pesticide exposures have noticed a real improvement in their health due to the widespread reduction in landscape pesticide use in their communities. They are now able to travel around their neighbourhoods more freely without getting sick. Birdwatchers have noted a general increase in songbird numbers due possibly to increased food and improved clutch success.
From “Is Halifax’s Pesticide Bylaw Working? You bet!”  May 20, 2004. Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa web-site. Click here for the full article.

For more on the Halifax Regional Municipality’s environmental initiatives, click here.  Click on Pesticides on the left hand menu for a 2006 report on how the pesticide bylaw is working. Complaints about people using pesticides have dropped from 400 in 2001 to 47 in 2005.

Click here for actions you can take to support a pesticide bylaw in Calgary.